How Deep is Deep Enough! [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: How Deep is Deep Enough!


FlyMan
11-15-2002, 05:58 PM
Currently, I have been concentrating my efforts on trout since getting into flyfishing last year and have just started to try fall/winter fishing. I don't get out nearly as often as I would like during prime time and would like to extend the season. I know that as water cools, the fish begin to gather in deep pools.

But, what I haven't been able to figure out is, just how deep of a pool should I be looking for? Is there some guideline that you use when you're on any given stream?

Is there any relationship between the water temperature and the depth to locate fish?

The fish have to be somewhere and I'm just not sure where to be looking.

I can't seem to locate that type of info in any of the books I've read. And, there doesn't seem to be any books dedicated to "cold weather fishing". Do you know of any that you can recommend?

Thanks for your willingness to share.

Eddie
11-16-2002, 10:00 AM
I suspect that the reason that everyone isn't jumping in on this is because it is a big question. There is alot that determines "where the fish are".
The simple and best answer is to fish all the pools and find the fish. Watch other anglers, and see where they are catching fish. The water is not that cold(or warm)right now, so the fish should be in the places that provide food, shelter and relief from the current. Keep your eyes open, you might be able to see them.
There are so many books I'm not sure where to begin. The Gary Borger book "Presentation" is the most comprehensive. Do a search on this sight. Ask your local fly shop, and I'm sure that others will suggest their favorite books.

pmflyfisher
11-16-2002, 10:29 AM
In the fall fish the feeder streams/brooks since brooks and browns spawn in the fall and will run up into these to spawn.

They can be difficult to take on the normal flies during this period since they are into the spawning mode but will hit a streamer (bunny leachs) or egg flys. I would gear up though for larger potential trout than the normal 10-13 inchers on light trout equipment, 6 weight and below. Make sure you are within 3 feet of the bottom use a sink tip and throw on some small split shot 18 inches or more up from the fly. Go to a fluor leader also.

In the great lakes we catch some of the largest resident river browns, rainbows and brooks behind the trout, salmon, and steelhead spawning areas.

Fish the deep holes behind and in front of these areas.

Always be aware which feeder streams or upstream nursery sections of your water sheds are closed during the winter though, since many are to protect the wild stocks.

Of course always practice catch and release.

Good luck

newbiefish
11-17-2002, 04:35 AM
I know that as water cools, the fish begin to gather in deep pools.

You do, eh?

I don't know anything about the subject, but I would surmise that your assumption may be incorrect, and I'll make an argument to the contrary. All things being equal, when the water warms, I would think fish gather in deep pools because the water is cooler, and they go deep in order to seek out temperatures they can survive in. So, if the water cools, maybe the deep pools get too cold and the fish rise to shallower water to find more comfortable temperatures. I would guess that in the winter, you would find more fish outside the deep pools than in the summer, if for no other reason than now they are able to survive in those waters.

FlyMan
11-17-2002, 11:17 AM
"I would think fish gather in deep pools because the water is cooler, and they go deep in order to seek out temperatures they can survive in."

We're talking extremes here. You would be correct on hot days and overly warm water. But, I believe fish do exactly the same thing in the other extreme - cold. Everything is relative to the air and water surface temperature. When the water is in that ideal trout temperature, you'll probably find them almost anywhere.


To respond to your points:

Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't ice begin to freeze on top water and work it's way down?

And, isn't top water more directly affected by the cold air temperature causing the water at the bottom to be warmer (relative to the top), which is why the top freezes first?

And, isn't the water current slower on the bottom than the top (especially in deep pools), which means fish don't have to expend as much energy, conserving their calories, during winter?

I won't profess to be a seasoned flyfisher, yet, but these seem like logical reasons why you'll probably find more fish deep than at the surface during the cold season.

Certainly there are going to be days during the cold season where you may find fish in the usual places, like those weird 60+ degree days in Dec. or Jan. At least I'm told that. But this would be the exception to the rule.

If I'm wrong here, please correct me. I would rather have the facts and be wrong than argue inaccuracies.

Those with more experience, please jump in!

fishboyicu812
11-17-2002, 07:00 PM
Winter trout fishing often times proves to be a difficult endeavor. Iced guides, cold feet, and sluggish fish are all a part of the game. Rest assured however that fish can be caught and at least in my case the fish caught proved to be some of my most satisfying of the year.

I generally concentrate my winter trout fishing trips on watersheds that offer the warmest water available. In my home state of Maryland this would include the various tailwaters (Gunpowder River, Savage River, North Branch) and the spring creeks of south central Pennsylvania. Waters such as these tend to have more stable and warmer water temps. then their freestone counterparts. I have had my best luck concentrating on the deeper pools and flats that afford the trout not only overhead cover but protection from the current as well. In my home waters I normally use smaller nymphs(#16-#18) or large streamers fished methodically on the bottom. Dry fly fishing is also a distinct possibility on some of those warmer days that seem to come about every so often. This fishing generally revolves around midges and in my area little black stoneflies(#16-#18)
Hope this has helped some...Good Luck!

newbiefish
11-17-2002, 08:56 PM
Ok, I'll continue to make completely ignorant arguments about this subject.

But, I believe fish do exactly the same thing in the other extreme - cold.
So, that would mean there is no change where fish hide in cold weather, and presumably you would find fish in the same places.
Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't ice begin to freeze on top water and work it's way down?
I was under the impression that if water's moving it may not freeze even though it's colder than the freezing point.
And, isn't top water more directly affected by the cold air temperature causing the water at the bottom to be warmer (relative to the top), which is why the top freezes first?

Good point, so it seems the air temperature could drive trout deeper but if it's above freezing it could bring them to the surface too in search of more habitable water.
And, isn't the water current slower on the bottom than the top (especially in deep pools), which means fish don't have to expend as much energy, conserving their calories, during winter?
The same is true in the summer.

I just think the statement that fish gather in deep pools in cold weather isn't all that helpful. For instance, if all the shallow water is frozen solid and the deep pools are the only ones that are ice free, then a fly fisherman is obviously going to fish the deep pools because most fish won't break through the ice to get at flies lying on top of the snow. In addition, most flyfishers know that trout seek out prime lies where they have cover and food nearby no matter what the weather--like a deep pool. How deep do you go? Well, you go to the bottom if you think the fish can survive there because that is where they expend the least amount of energy. If you don't get any takes, you try a different depth--pretty much like any day flyfishing. If you don't catch anything you change flies or move to another spot. How is that different than nymphing in the summer? Are fish not going to be in the riffles or runs in the winter as long as they are ice free?

newbiefish
11-18-2002, 10:38 PM
I performed a test today: I fished the riffles and runs with dry flies and the deep pools with nymphs. I got skunked in the deep pools where I've caught some nice fish before, and I caught lots of medium sized fish in the riffles and shallow tailouts. Based on my statistical sample of 1 day I came to the following conclusion: as the weather gets colder, fish move out of the deep pools and into shallow water to feed and sunbathe.

Adrian
11-19-2002, 08:06 AM
Various points which may already have been noted but here goes anyway:

If the water is deep enough (not sure what that would be) and relatively unaffected by surface currents then the temperature would change a lot slower than at the surface (summer or winter). Think about a tailwater fishery like the Farmington. There is year round water coming from the base of a high dam where the water temperature doesn't vary by more than a few degrees the entire year - and the fishing remains pretty good.

Some fish seem to thrive in cold weather. I haven't tried winter steelhead fishing - yet - but the picture is typically leaping chrome bodies invariably against a backdrop of heavy snow cover and pockets of ice at the sides of the streams.

I remember reading several years ago about a condition where ice will start to build up on a stream bed even while the water is still flowing (can't remember the scientific explanation). A stretch of water in this condition has little means of supporting life so the fish move out - maybe to deeper pools where the bottom has not frozen? Or maybe where an underground spring emerges? Now if you could find a deep pool where you know an underground spring emerges - you might want to keep that place a secret ;)

Quentin
11-19-2002, 09:08 AM
I don't recall seeing this mentioned, and I don't remember the specifics, but perhaps this is something to consider: When water cools down to a certain point it becomes more dense and sinks to the bottom, but when the water continues to cool and the temperature approaches the freezing point it actually becomes LESS dense, which would keep the coldest water on the surface. I'm not sure how much this affects the temperature gradient in moving water, but it may be part of the reason why the water is warmer at the bottom of deep pools in the winter.

Q

Dble Haul
11-19-2002, 10:00 AM
Adrian hit upon the key issue here....the deeper the water, the more stable the temperature is near the bottom. Trout will tend to hang in deep pools during winter because this is the location that is least likely to have an abrupt temperature change.

Many of these holes are collecting areas for nymph drifts, which are an ideal food for a cold-blooded animal that won't move far for a meal.

FlyMan
11-19-2002, 10:00 AM
Originally posted by newbiefish
I performed a test today: I fished the riffles and runs with dry flies and the deep pools with nymphs. I got skunked in the deep pools where I've caught some nice fish before, and I caught lots of medium sized fish in the riffles and shallow tailouts. Based on my statistical sample of 1 day I came to the following conclusion: as the weather gets colder, fish move out of the deep pools and into shallow water to feed and sunbathe.

Where was this exhaustive testing performed?

What was the water temperature?

What was the air temperature?

Are you as good at nymphing techniques as you feel you are with dry flies?

Whether your results support your facts or mine, I don't believe one day on the water proves anything because there are so many other variables. All I'm looking for are general guidelines for cold weather fishing. As I get experience, I'll form my own conclusions.

Newbiefish, I don't understand why you seem so hellbent on going against the grain here. I know there are exceptions in everything, but all those that have responded to my intital post in 4 different forums pretty much agree. By your own admission you state you don't know anything about the subject. So, why are you trying to prove it?

FlyMan
11-27-2002, 09:09 AM
For those with similar questions on how to maximize winter fishing, as well as other seasons, I would like to highly recommend Dave Hughes book, "Fishing the Four Seasons". It's a really down to earth book full of practical tips and suggestions on how to get the most out of each season.

It certainly has answered many of my questions, and has confirmed almost everything of what was mentioned here by you fine folks.

A great book for those still at the beginning of the learning curve as I am.

FlyMan
12-01-2002, 12:44 AM
Just thought I would bring you up to date on my cold weather fishing. After having read Dave Hughs book, and following some of the advice learned in these forums, I went out to the Blackstone River with my daughter, alittle downstream from the dam at Blackstone Gorge.

She was using a Lightening Bug, size 16, and I tried a olive and black Wooley Bugger, about a size 12, both with a split shot about 18" up from the fly. We were on the edge of a deep pool, cast out to the middle and, within 10 minutes or so, my daughter caught the first fish, a trout about 6" or so. About 10 minutes later I connected. In all, we brought in 6, with numerous other hits.

The water temp was 36 degrees.

All in all, we were very pleased with our results and had a wonderful time on the water. Thanks to all who shared and helped in my success!

Ralph